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Basic home gym set up

Sept. 23, 2020, 10:36 p.m.
Posts: 654
Joined: May 11, 2018

I'm looking to set up a small home gym but want to save space. I was looking at the universal dumbells that you can change the weight on by clipping more or less plates and using them with a basic bench. I don't need to do massive weights just something to help my aging body keep some muscle mass.

Anyone else have a good home gym setup they can recommend?


 Last edited by: RAHrider on Sept. 23, 2020, 10:37 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
Sept. 23, 2020, 10:44 p.m.
Posts: 11661
Joined: June 4, 2008

The more you can define your goals, the better the suggestions and your results will be.

If you want an active life well into your golden years, the research says you should be trying to get as strong as you can now.

Sept. 24, 2020, 9:05 a.m.
Posts: 391
Joined: Nov. 25, 2013

I've got a set of Bowflex Select Tech 552 - they work well for overall strength. The challenge I have is that I'm maxing them out on certain exercises now. The issue with the kind of dumbbells that have a nob to change weight is that they are quite fragile overall - so no dropping them or putting them down on the ground off-kilter. It will snap the select discs which I've done a few times and is just annoying (not difficult) to have to order replacements and take the weights apart.

Sept. 24, 2020, 10:56 a.m.
Posts: 685
Joined: Nov. 23, 2002

IMO what you set up depends on how much money you're willing to spend and how much space you have. I built a half rack out of 4x4 posts, 2x6's,  and some 8" bolts. As long as you have a stud finder, drill and some drill bits you can make something up as you can get the lumber yard to cut your pieces to length. The rack sits pretty close to the wall and doesn't take up a lot of space. I also added a chin-up bar. Total cost for materials to build the rack was about $100 including a 3x7 rubber mat for the floor. The bigger cost comes with getting your weights. For weights I have sets of 15, 25 and 35lb bumper plates and sets of 5, 10, 25, 45x2 regular plates. I also got a basic TRX setup to hang off the chin up bar. With what I have I can get a full workout in. Weights are $2 lb, a bit more for the bumpers. To get yourself a 5, 10, 15, 25, 35 and 45x1 setup with the bar and TRX will run you about $700, $500 without the 45's. For most guys starting out not having any 45's will be ok as you'll have 225 with everything on the bar. If your squats/dl's start to move you can get 1 set of 45's for up to 315lb total weight and a second set to get up to 405. I'd guess most guys here won't need or want that much weight, but having one set of 45's makes things easier in terms of loading even if you're not lifting much over 250.

I typically keep the bar loaded with the 25's so I can knock off a superset of curl's, tri-extentions and standing presses whenever the mood strikes me. For a while I was doing 2 sets of 9-12 reps every day and it yielded really good results. That's the huge benefit of a home gym setup - you could train 2-3x/day every day if you want and it will yield amazing results if you stick with it. Training at a medium intensity (75% effort) with a very high frequency is IMO the best way to get in shape/jacked/ripped, but it requires a fairly strong focus as there are a ton of distractions at home. If you can get in the habit tho, you can make radical changes in a very short period of time. There is also a huge benefit to doing some sort of loaded movement every day as you'll find you have more energy, more spring in your step, more flexibility and will simply feel 'on' all the time as in you could take Thor's hammer and wrap it around his neck if you wanted to.

Sept. 24, 2020, 10:59 a.m.
Posts: 1981
Joined: Jan. 5, 2010

I live in a small apartment and I have plates, a barbell, and an easy curl bar. It all stacks up pretty well in the corners of a den. It gives me the option to overload my workouts, or  lift plates in the place of dumbbells (definitely not perfect, but generally good enough). Bar stools are stolen for setting up my squat rack, and regular chairs for my bench press setup.

Covid workout videos also showed me that you can use a pull-up bar, dog leashes, and backback filled with weight to make an at-home cable machine. The amount of friction in my setup makes it not perfect and I generally prefer to use bands for cable workouts, but it can certainly work.

I do wish I had an adjustable bench, but I so far haven't felt the need to get dumbbells.

Sept. 24, 2020, 11:52 a.m.
Posts: 50
Joined: May 11, 2017

This is my Ghetto COVID gym... If you have a garage this barely takes up more space than the two bikes that hang there when it's not in use.

Built from a couple sheets of old ply wood and a jigsaw. With a few random dumbbells and resistance bands there isn't much you cant do... Not sure how easy a bar and plates are to come by these days though...

Sept. 24, 2020, 1:45 p.m.
Posts: 11661
Joined: June 4, 2008

I decided to give up commercial gyms pre-COVID and did a large Rogue order revolving around one of their folding racks. 

The quality is amazing, but it ain’t cheap.

https://www.roguecanada.ca/rogue-rigs-racks/power-racks

Sept. 25, 2020, 3:19 p.m.
Posts: 18
Joined: Sept. 12, 2009

I think 3-4 kettlebells, a mat, and a few bands will get you where you want to go for a few hundred bucks. Very compact also. As a bonus, if you get into kettlebells you get to watch the best fitness instructional video ever made https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cKx8xE8jJZs

Sept. 25, 2020, 3:52 p.m.
Posts: 301
Joined: April 15, 2017

thank you for this video. I will be better man soon

Sept. 27, 2020, 11:22 a.m.
Posts: 301
Joined: April 15, 2017

I laugh but I did just buy his kettlebell book. He is a legit russian kettlebell badass

Oct. 6, 2020, 11:30 p.m.
Posts: 7
Joined: Aug. 12, 2020

I would add that a swiss ball and half ball are very good and cheap additions to any gym. I use the swiss ball instead of a bench for everything except vertical rows and standing stuff. Standing stuff I do on a half ball.

Pro athletes often do their standing stuff whilst balanced on top of swiss balls. Madness to me. The half ball is tough enough.

It really works wonders for your fast twitch balance. My riding has definitely benefited from using the balls. My main gym goal (aside from weight loss) is to improve my conditioning for moto enduro riding. I ride with former mx racer bros and can keep up with them for the first half of the days but start to lag and fatigue later in our rides. 

My trainer friend also said if I want to benefit my riding, I should use a broomstick cut down to bar width and hold it when doing stuff like squats, box jumps, side skips and general body weight stuff. I hate that stuff so I should probably do more of it.


 Last edited by: Bad-Sean on Oct. 6, 2020, 11:37 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
Oct. 8, 2020, 8:49 a.m.
Posts: 22
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

Know your goals, like ReductiMat said. I'm 47 and have been pretty hard on my body, so I focus on injury prevention and keeping old issues at bay. Back, hips, shoulders - focusing on the backside of shoulders, core, and a little bit or all-round strength, which include pushups and pullups. I had a physical therapist friend help me design workouts, and it's none of the "cool" stuff you see jacked people do in commercial gyms. If my workout is more than 30-40 minutes I get totally bored, I'd rather be outside, so I keep it modest.

I ended out going with interlocking floor mat, a sandbag and a couple bands. That said, I'm considering one of those fragile select-a-weight dumbbell sets so I can do overhead presses. I can do quite a lot with this minimal setup.  **** Edit: oh screw that, after watching Comrade Kettlebell, I'm getting a couple of those!  So good!

I used to lift pretty hard with a nice home gym when I was in my late 20's. Got pretty strong for a lean guy, though I did it wrong, and it contributed to a major shoulder injury. Was telemarking on an icy day on some lines around Spanky's Ladder. Lost grip and starting sliding into some steep rocks and had to self arrest, which I did successfully, but it yanked my should pretty good at a weird angle. Tore my rotator to bits, and my doc, a great sports medicine Dr, said my weight lifting made it way worse since my front-of-shoulder and chest were stronger than my back-shoulder. When the adrenaline hit it popped everything forward, combined with the hard torque from a weird angle and I had a 1-year recovery (shoulda had surgery).

Moral of the story, get balanced while you get strong. Bikers hunch forward, so upper back and back of shoulders are key. And don't neglect those hamstrings to balance out our over-developed quads.

Fast forward 20 years and I started doing swim workouts to enable my love of surfing when I go on winter vacation. I also have a desk job and ride bikes, and did a lot of trail building. Again, lack of body balance and I developed thoracic outlet syndrome, which started as finger numbness on rides and got pretty bad, and my lower back always went out. Had to stop trail building at this point. Got set up on a program of strengthening/shortening the back of my neck and back of shoulders. Doc also said to do as much backstroke as crawlstroke on swim workouts.

The focus on my back with band work, hip hinges, and back bridges have really helped my shoulder and back injuries. Plus my posture is great! I'm really quite stoked on my ability to stay healthy now even with a f'd up back.

40-45 was rough for me. I was one of those guys who could crash and and mostly be able to shrug it off and throw dirt with abandon. Then BOOM, 40 hit and I was always messed up. I had to learn the hard way, but my current program of core and balanced strength has me riding long descents without stopping and happily doing trail work again, though I need to stay smart about moving rocks.


 Last edited by: JVP on Oct. 8, 2020, 9:15 a.m., edited 1 time in total.
Oct. 8, 2020, 8:11 p.m.
Posts: 654
Joined: May 11, 2018

You all are inspiring. I'm in my mid 40's and would rather ride than do weights etc. I stretch every day between 15-30 minutes and doing this seems to keep me injury free.  I have definitely noticed that I lose muscle mass if I don't use it. I know I should do more core and strengthen the areas that are underutilized. I suppose I will start with a kettle bell and read this thread to motivate myself to actually go lift it then watch the Russian. Thanks for sharing all your home gyms, workouts and experiences. I'll post my gym setup when I get it.

Oct. 8, 2020, 10:54 p.m.
Posts: 5
Joined: Jan. 2, 2020

While in lockdown I took some stuff home from the gym:
aerobic dumbell set with additional weights, a mat and one of those stupid aerobix steps.

With this setup you can do almost everything (except pullups)

Use the step for variations of lunges, squats, benchpress, dips ..

also can do deadlifts, rowing, all the pulling and pushing basically. It was great. Had to return it all and lost interest in going to the studio completely. Now always think about just getting the stuff all by myself and safe on the studio plan.

Need to say: I was pretty much into these Hot Iron courses with a mix of some crossfitty things. Now almost only to Tabatas with all the exercises I can imagine, but the results are low as I only can bring myself to go to the gym like once a week.


 Last edited by: danimaniac on Oct. 8, 2020, 10:55 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
Oct. 9, 2020, 10:49 a.m.
Posts: 301
Joined: April 15, 2017

I've started the 'Simple and Sinister' kettlebell course and it's good. Thanks Matt_d

A lot of emphasis on stretching and rigid adherence to form. It's a simple routine which allows me to get all the other stuff in my life, like humans, bikes etc, done without being gassed and it's roughly 30-45 mins a day. It doesn't have a lot of cognitive load for me either.


 Last edited by: DanL on Oct. 9, 2020, 11:02 a.m., edited 1 time in total.

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